The Insanity Defense 1881 – US

The Insanity Defense 1881 – US

The Insanity Defense 1881 - US
Puck magazine commissioned this caricature of Guiteau for its July 13, 1881, cover. – The Insanity Defense 1881 – US

James Garfield (1831–1881), Charles Guiteau (1841–1882), United States v. Guiteau

In 1843, England was the birthplace of the insanity defense as a legal notion. Daniel M’Naghten attempted to murder British Prime Minister David Cameron, whom he claimed was plotting against him. The court acquitted him due to his psychosis, establishing the Mr. M’Naghten Rule.

It requires that a defendant be found not guilty of an offense if, at the time of the offense, his mental illness was severe enough to (1) impair his ability to know or understand the nature or quality of his criminal behavior, and (2) to jeopardize his ability to know or understand the legal or moral wrongfulness of his actions. In the United States, this two-pronged rule established the legal standard for an insanity defense.

After assassinating President James Garfield on July 2, 1881, a jury in the United States had to weigh the destiny of Charles Guiteau. Mr. Guiteau claimed to be an emissary of God when he shot the President throughout his trial.

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